MC Helios-81H 2/50 Review

11/17/2016 - 01:01
MC Helios-81H 2/50 Review

MC Helios-81H 2/50 is a kit prime lens for 35mm cameras Kiev-19 and Kiev-20. Produced on "Arsenal" factory in Kyiv, Ukraine since 1983.

Letter "H" means that it has a Nikon F mount, so Helios-81H 2/50 can be easily used on Nikon DSLR cameras; at the same time will automatically work aperture preset.

When you mount MC Helios-81H 2/50 on the D80 Nikon, the aperture ring may not work, and the aperture will always be at a value of f/2. The fact is that in the old Nikon cameras when the lens barrel skirt clamps the aperture lever. Therefore, to fully operate, it is necessary to cut down a little skirt to mount in a place of contact with the lever. It's easy to do it yourself with a file (read here). On newer models such as the Nikon D3100, Aperture works without problems.

You can find different versions of Helios 81: Helios-81MHelios-81 Automat; it's all the same optical design. And the lenses have different barrel designs, mounting bayonet, and lens coating. Although their optical quality is a little different, the character is the same.

After the factory Arsenal rebranded in the early 90s, Helios-81H 2/50 began to produce under the name Arsat 1:2 50mm. Despite the name of this same lens.

This review presents the lens released in the factory Arsenal in 1988, as evidenced by the first two digits of the serial number on the frame near the lens mount.

MC Helios-81H 2/50

In earlier lens versions, the serial number applied next to, in front of the barrel ring.


MC Helios-81H 2/50 Specs

Focal length: 50 mm
Aperture: f/ 2— f/ 16
Weight (gr/oz): 300 / 10.6
Length (mm/in): 48 / 1.9
Filter Ø (mm.): 49
Aperture blades: 6
Min. Focus distance (m.): 0.5


MC Helios-81H 2/50 Handling and Mechanics

The lens has a compact size and sits comfortably on the camera.

MC Helios-81H 2/50

Ahead is a 6mm wide metal focusing ring; it has a pleasant texture to the touch, similar to the spikes. I did not understand that it is all-metal. I thought that it rubberized. It rotates 270 degrees, allowing you to carry out smooth focus adjustments. The front lens does not rotate during focusing.

MC Helios-81H 2/50 rear

Closer to the bayonet placed aperture ring. The aperture closes discrete, by half stops.

MC Helios-81H 2/50 aperture blades

Aperture has 6 blades; in my copy, they are not blackened.

MC Helios-81H 2/50 vs Arsat 2 50mm

MC Helios-81H 2/50 vs Arsat 1:2 50mm Compare View:

I compared the two versions of the Helios-81H 2/50 (1988 year) and Arsat 1:2 50mm (1996 year) and found these differences:
1. Helios-81H has a metal focusing ring, while the Arsat 1:2 50mm has a rubberized ring and has a slightly different pattern.
2. The diameter of the filter at the Helios-81H 2/50 is 49mm, while on Arsat 1:2, 50mm is 52mm.
3. Helios-81H has not blackened aperture blades, while Arsat 1:2 50mm thus blackened.
4. While both lenses have multicoating, it is different. At MC Helios-81 front lens casts a blue tint. In Arsat it is green.

MC Helios-81H 2/50 vs Arsat 2 50mm

Judging by the differences, Arsat 1:2 50mm must have better optical performance, but I have not noticed any significant differences in practice. Optical performance is about the same.


МС Гелиос-81Н 2/50 Example Photos

I took all photos on Nikon D3100. RAW export with minor exposure compensation.


MC Helios-81H 2/50 Sharpness

A wide-open aperture lens is an acceptable sharpness at close range for shooting portraits.

MC Helios-81H 2/50 example photos portrait

f/ 2

If you want to capture the portrait in full growth, it is possible to observe a significant drop in sharpness. At long distances is a more spherical aberration.

MC Helios-81H 2/50 example photos chlid

f/ 2

You can consider a fully working aperture with the values of f/2.8. On the f/5,6, there is the best sharpness.

MC Helios-81H 2/50 example photos  forest

f/ 2 focusing at infinity

I want to note that the Soviet lenses have spread in quality, so everything said in this review refers specifically to the instance.


MC Helios-81H 2/50 Character and Bokeh

The lens has a nice character of the optical design Zeiss Biotar.

MC Helios-81H 2/50 example photos  child portrait

f/ 2

MC Helios-81H 2/50 example photos  baby portrait

f/ 2

A certain background can be seen in the swirly bokeh at a wide-open aperture, especially if you use a lens on full-frame cameras.

MC Helios-81H 2/50 example photos  portrait in forest

f/ 2

On APS-C sensor cameras, it can be used as a portrait lens. The effective focal length is equivalent to 75mm on a full-frame.

MC Helios-81H 2/50 example photos  viburnum

f/ 2 MFD


MC Helios-81H 2/50 Contrast and Coor Render

In general, the lens has good contrast, and color rendering is pleasant. But still, it loses in contrast to modern lenses.

MC Helios-81H 2/50 example photos  cky and crane

f/ 5.6

Often backlit illumination lens catches flare.

MC Helios-81H 2/50 example photos house

f/ 3.5

MC Helios-81H 2/50 example photos sunshine

f/ 5.6



MC Helios-81H 2/50 is a good 2/50 soviet 50mm lens. Convenient that, without the hassle and alterations installed on a Nikon camera while maintaining preset aperture. It has a good character and pleasant biotar bokeh due to the availability in the secondary market and the ease of installation, widely used by amateur photographers.

Somu's picture
This Helios 81H-2/50 i got from ebay for about 35$. While glass is good it required some service for loose screws etc which did myself.But its performance checked both on my Nikon D5200 direct and on Canon EOS 350D via adapter both are so terrific.Saying terrific as i found it beat out my many other named & famed classic lenses of Nikons, CZJ Pancolar & Supertakumar etc in Image resolution, color & contrast both in close up and at distance.It is unbelievably great at such price.With correct exposure no further image adjustment is needed.Love so much the lens.If one in love with photography not having this lens for sure missing a lot.Just better leave all technical reports and reviews.Grab one and start shooting.It will never disappoint.For its price it is available it is truly a great lens. Image details: Tulasi plant in bloom Macro like shot, Nikon D5200, ISO 100, 1/250, F5.6 in Manual mode.Day light condition.
Example photos: 
Image By Helios -81H,2/50 Lens
Evelina's picture
Hi, what adapter did you use on Canon? I bought a M42 adapter which goes perfectly on the Canon body but it does not fit at all the Helios 81 lenses. Guess the adapter was not right?
Somu's picture
As my Helios lens is of Nikon mount i used Canon to Nikon adapter on my Canon.If one use a Canon to M42 Adapter then have to use M42 Mount Helios lens.
Salman's picture
Thanks you for the review. How is the lens whe. Shooting in black and white on your Nikon?
Ray Homewood's picture
Great review. If I mount this lens on my ‘Nikon D50 will it damage the camera?
David Roberts's picture
No, it won't damage your camera, but the meter won't work. You'll have to just look at the screen and adjust exposure until it looks good.
Anonymous's picture
Example photos: 
Anonymous's picture
MC Helios 81H on Nikon D7500
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